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Old 07-29-2002, 06:35 PM   #1
obloquy
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Sting The Powers of the Istari

I posted this in the Sauron Eyeball Thread. It was rather off-topic for that thread, so here's a new one.


Quote:
Observed or was forced to abide by these rules.
Observed. Gandalf could have turned his back on these rules, as Saruman did. He instead made himself wholly subject to them, and it was only because of this that his mission succeeded.

Quote:
Don't you think Saruman would have used his real power if he could?
I think Saruman did use his real power. This is why he seemed so much stronger than Gandalf before Gandalf's return as the White. If the Istari actually had a certain measure of their power taken away from them by the Valar, why would Saruman be allowed more than Gandalf? What would be the purpose of an actual power handicap? What more would Saruman have had to do for you to say, Hey, I think he just broke one of the rules of the Istari! I think the limits on their power were just these:
Quote:
whereas now their emissaries were forbidden to reveal themselves in forms of majesty, or to seek to rule the wills of Men and Elves by open display of power, but coming in shapes weak and humble were bidden to advise and persuade Men and Elves to good, and to seek to unite in love and understanding all those whom Sauron, should he come again, would endeavour to dominate and corrupt.
I don't believe that their spiritual potency was restricted, but that they were limited in the ways they could openly use that potency. Saruman did 'reveal himself in a form of majesty', and he did 'seek to rule the wills of Men and Elves by open display of power'. Saruman broke the rules, and thus appeared more powerful through the same means that Sauron did -- in armies and domination.

Check this out from Letters:
Quote:
For in his condition it was for him a sacrifice to perish on the Bridge in defence of his companions, less perhaps than for a mortal Man or Hobbit, since he had a far greater inner power than they; but also more, since it was a humbling and abnegation of himself in conformity to 'the Rules': for all he could know at that moment he was the only person who could direct the resistance to Sauron successfully, and all his mission was vain. He was handing over to the Authority that ordained the Rules, and giving up personal hope of success.
Pretty groovy, eh?

Gandalf, though greater in original spirit, submitted to Saruman's authority as the head of the order because that was how it was set up. He was humble, and in this lies the very key to his success. Here is more of my argument for Gandalf > Saruman. In addition to that, if we accept the quote I provided from Unfinished Tales about Gandalf and Sauron being equal in their beginnings; and we accept this quote, also from UT:
Quote:
And Curunír 'Lân, Saruman the White, fell from his high errand, and becoming proud and impatient and enamoured of power sought to have his own will by force, and to oust Sauron; but he was ensnared by that dark spirit, mightier than he.
...then it is only logical for us to consider Gandalf mightier than Saruman.

Quote:
In the form he was in, Sauron was the strongest at that time. It's not just a matter of one being's sole power, but his influence as well...It's not just the one being that is powerful, but all under his control.
I can agree that Sauron's "team" was stronger than Gandalf's. That's exactly what Gandalf meant when he said what O'Boile quoted.

Quote:
His influence was great yes, but his sheer power was not equal to Sauron's.
You're right that Sauron, with the resources he commanded, was capable of more action -- be it mobilizing armies, destroying villages, besieging cities -- in Middle-earth than Gandalf. But the being that was Sauron and the being that was Gandalf, in their beginnings, had equally potent spirits.

They were different beings, though. The bad guys are usually "more powerful" than the good guys because they are willing to do anything to achieve their ends, and are not inhibited by morals, honesty, or compassion. Gandalf was a very meek spirit, and even expressed to Manwe a fear of Sauron. Manwe was confident in Gandalf, though, because of that humility.

Edit: Updated link at HerenIstarion's request.

Last edited by obloquy; 11-30-2004 at 02:17 PM.
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Old 07-29-2002, 06:45 PM   #2
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Great arguments obloquy. I agree. To show restraint was to show strength on Gandalf's part.
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Old 07-29-2002, 07:01 PM   #3
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Sting

First off, let me say I am wholly believing in your theory. However, there was one note in the other thread, and if you would allow me to dredge it up, I wish to question it's proof:
Quote:
This tells us that Gandalf had made himself wholly subject to the rules of the Istari, and would not break them even if it meant the failure of his mission.
This means, though, that if in the end Gandalf could have dealt the killing blow even though it would break the rules, but end evil, he would have not done so. The rules where first put there to stop the Istari from turning *into* Sauron, or at least becoming akin to Saruman after he is corrupted. I do not think that Gandalf would let the whole mission fail and earth be doomed so that he could stay within the respected bounderies. In a true emergency, I do not think the Valar would mind him breaking it. Or if they did, he would probably be just doomed to stay in ME, and perhaps stripped of his power and immortality, but I think Gandalf would be willing to accept such consquences to save all of ME and Eru's work. He did not bow to evil, so that he would not become evil, but if he had to so that he could stop it, I think he would. This is, however, a judge of Gandalf's character, and I may be wrong. In fact, you could respond his character is so pure because he did not let himself turn to evil. I was just questioning the theory, at any matter, and I hope you can prove me wrong, so I can argue back. I've found it's the best way to learn. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

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Old 07-29-2002, 07:25 PM   #4
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Sting

Good post, Anna Licumo, though I disagree a bit.

You say Gandalf would have viewed the completion of the mission as more important than the rules that governed the mission. In reply to this I'll direct your attention back to the quote from Letters, where Tolkien says "for all he could know at that moment he was the only person who could direct the resistance to Sauron successfully, and all his mission was vain. He was handing over to the Authority that ordained the Rules, and giving up personal hope of success." Here Gandalf did exactly what you don't believe he would have done: he remained subject to the rules, though it meant (for all he knew) the failure of his mission and an eventual victory for Sauron.
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Old 07-29-2002, 07:39 PM   #5
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Sting

how do you know that the maiar all had equally potent spirits?

if they did, then why was gandalf afraid of sauron when manwe asked him to come?

To answer my own question,one reason i think gandalf might have been afraid of sauron is because the istari had to all be clothed in the form of old men, thus containing thier true power.

Whereas, sauron did not have to be clothed in anything, and wasnt contained by really anything. He was his own master, but the istari were servants of manwe.

i HOPE that made sense, if it didnt im sorry, and btw, great post obloquy(sp?).
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Old 07-29-2002, 07:41 PM   #6
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Sting

Perhaps Gandalf had faith in the restrictions placed upon him. The point is that the mission would've failed had Gandalf not followed these restrictions, and he knew that. The Valar were wise enough to place such a mission and conditions upon him to know that if he stuck to them, he would succeed. I believe Gandalf knew this, though he feared otherwise because of his humility.

No one said that *all* Maiar were equally potent in spirit, just that Olorin and Sauron were. Olorin feared Sauron because he was humble.
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Old 07-29-2002, 07:44 PM   #7
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Sting

Agreed, Legalos. Good points.

Morgoth Bauglir: I'm not saying that all Maiar were equal. My contention that Sauron and Olorin were equal is based on the quote I provided from Unfinished Tales.
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Old 07-29-2002, 10:45 PM   #8
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Thumbs up

Sorry if this seems way off topic in some areas, but the request was made to place a response to the initial post of this thread here as well as another.

Quote:
whereas now their emissaries were forbidden to reveal themselves in forms of majesty,...but coming in shapes weak and humble were bidden to advise and persuade Men and Elves to good, and to seek to unite in love and understanding all those whom Sauron, should he come again, would endeavour to dominate and corrupt.
This seems to tell me that they were infact restricted in the use of their powers as Maia. I suppose it depends on personal interpretation.

Quote:
Saruman broke the rules, and thus appeared more powerful through the same means that Sauron did -- in armies and domination.
But is her more powerful then Sauron himself. My statment regarding the overall power was bi-fold. If Saruman was infact using his full Maia power, which I assume is what you are saying, then wound't he just go up and match Sauron Maia for Maia, instead of devising armies and adamantly searching for the ring?

Think about it, wouldn't it be the best course of action to remove your closest competitor if you have the chance, if Saruman was more powerful than Sauron at this time, then why didn't he do so.

Quote:
but he was ensnared by that dark spirit, mightier than he.
I'm not sure of you're reasoning after you stated this but to me, that says that Sauron was obviously more powerful than Saruman. Sauron was the representation of the darkness of Middle Earth at this time, so it would only be logical to consider him in referencing this quote.

Quote:
But the being that was Sauron and the being that was Gandalf, in their beginnings, had equally potent spirits.
Of course in the beginning they were equal, but that changed. Sauron's attachment to Melkor strengthend his sheer physical power obviously. But we are talking about their power during the time of the War of the Ring. Gandalf the White was still a Maia in a human shell, so that would limit his power logically.

Quote:
They were different beings, though. The bad guys are usually "more powerful" than the good guys because they are willing to do anything to achieve their ends, and are not inhibited by morals, honesty, or compassion. Gandalf was a very meek spirit, and even expressed to Manwe a fear of Sauron. Manwe was confident in Gandalf, though, because of that humility.
So what exactly are we debating? The definition of power? If so that is a matter of personal interpretation once again. I am referring to actual physical power as a whole.
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Old 07-29-2002, 11:29 PM   #9
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Sting

No one mentioned Saruman being able to defeat Sauron.

That quote about the "mightier" stated that Sauron > Saruman, and the quote from UT says that Gandalf = Sauron.

So, if...

Gandalf = Sauron
Saruman < Sauron

Then...

Gandalf > Saruman


Edit: Looking back, I'm wondering if you read the thread at all, or just felt like ranting about something.

[ July 30, 2002: Message edited by: Legalos ]
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Old 07-30-2002, 07:09 AM   #10
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Sting

I would still maintain that during the time of the War of the Ring, that Sauron had more strength that Gandalf. If that was not the case, then why would Gandalf be afraid to look into the Palantir? Now if you count wisdom, Gandalf may have been equal, however for sheer power (not including armies) I still think Sauron was mightier. Something similar could be said for Saruman, before Gandalf was Resureccted. Unfinished Tails certainly makes Saruman seem greater, unless you count wisdom and willpower. In that case Gandalf was greater as noticed by Cirdan.
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Old 07-30-2002, 07:58 AM   #11
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Quote:
Why was Gandalf afraid of looking into the palantir?
Why was he afraid to take the Ring when Frodo offerred it to him? See Gandalf's answer to Frodo in the chapter "The Shadow of the Past", FOTR. Wisdom and humility and self-knowledge make Gandalf greater.

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Old 07-30-2002, 08:41 AM   #12
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Quote:
"Of course in the beginning they were equal, but that changed. Sauron's attachment to Melkor strengthend his sheer physical power obviously."
This is entirely false. Sauron, as well as his master, were not physically strong in any way, shape, or form. They used guile and deceit to entrap their enemies (the rings of power). Sauron, ages before, was defeated by Huan no matter what type of physical form he took. Melkor too had his foot cleaved off by Fingolfin. Both were not physically strong, but mentally cunning and treacherous.
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Old 07-30-2002, 09:17 AM   #13
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Sting

Meklor does defeat Fingolfin who is supposed to be one of the most valiant elves. Also, his foot probably was not cut off (see another tread that discusses this), however he was injured. It is said in the Silmarilion that Fingolfin's battle was ultimately hopeless, which would not be the case if Meklor was not tough in battle. Sauron fights against 4 of the greatest warriors of the time at the end of the second age, and he defeats two of them before he falls. That sounds pretty tough. Gandalf does not look in the palantir because he knows that his spirit is no match for Sauron's (perhaps becsause of the handicaps placed on it from being an istari), and that were he to do so, he would run the risk of becoming ensnared like Saruman was.
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Old 07-30-2002, 09:26 AM   #14
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Sting

I would personally concede that Melkor and Sauron were *physically* stronger, than Gandalf. The Istari were cloaked in the appearence of old men so that they would know weariness, and anger, and hunger, because this knowledge would help them understand the plight of Elves and Men better, and so better help them fight against evil. *Spiritually*, however, I think Gandalf would be an even match. He did not look into the Palantir because he was afraid of not being strong enought to withstand Sauron- even though he probably could- and ending the mission. He knew his self-impossed limits and had no dillusions of grandeur or wished to oversee the hearts of Elves and Men, and this is what made him such a good man. (Man being used lightly [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img] ) It also made him appear weaker, but that may have just been his point, so that he would not hold as much sway over people as being all-powerful. The reason for the limits being set in the first point.
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Old 07-30-2002, 09:33 AM   #15
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O'Boile you seem to be blind to the facts you yourself are stating. Yes, Fingolfin did fight against Morgoth, and yes he did lose. As you yourself stated, Fingolfin was an elf, who dealt a greivous wound to a higher being--an Ainur. This wound was more hurtful to Morgoth's pride than his body.
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"The Orcs made no boast of that duel at the gate; niether do the Elves sing of it, for their sorrow is too deep."
For an elf to wound an Ainur, I would consider that being to be not very physically strong. The whole point of my previous post, O'Boile, was to show that Morgoth was not the type to fight one on one--and niether was Sauron.

If you want more proof of this, I've provided a link to another topic. I shall scour the ancient depths of the board for another, longer, more specific topic even now. Here.

I found another link to a previous discussion of this topic where several good points were made:
Gandalf vs. Sauron

[ July 30, 2002: Message edited by: Feanaro ]
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Old 07-30-2002, 10:57 AM   #16
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Sting

Quote:
why would Gandalf be afraid to look into the Palantir?
Because Sauron would send his giant army to kill them all? Maybe? Also, Sauron was tricky. That's not to say that he was more powerful, just tricky. Saruman was also tricky, and he got killed by Grima.
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Old 07-30-2002, 11:08 AM   #17
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Sting

I agree with Burrahobbit, the reason Gandalf did not look into the palantir was of fear of revealing himself, not because he feared to lose a contest of will.
I am unsure if Sauron is stronger than Gandalf or if it is the opposite. Sauron was Melkor's mightiest servant, and learned much sorcery from him. When he attacked Minas Tirith (in the sil, not the capital of Gondor), it says that he came against them himself, meaning he is quite powerful in combat. On the other hand, when Gandalf first enters Dol Guldur, Sauron flees before him. I think however, that he did not flee because he feared to lose a fight, but to be exposed as Sauron himself.
I think Sauron was stronger than Gandalf when it came down to sheer power, but it is probably not much.
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Old 07-30-2002, 11:18 AM   #18
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Sting

Quote:
meaning
No it doesn't. It means that he led a force against the tower. He was like a General. It just means that he thought it was important enough to come out and personally lead the battle. It isn't hard to lead from the back.
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Old 08-06-2002, 08:05 AM   #19
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I beleive a quote from gandalf when he is talking to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli in Fanghorn could sum this up. I don't have the book with me, but he is talking about how Treebeard is perilous, and then mentions other people who are perilous: "... as am I, more perilous than anyone you may meet, unless you are brought before the dark lord himself...". I would say that this implies that Gandalf was not as strong (perhapse due to his Istari form, and not being allowed to match Sauron with power).

My quotes about Meklor and Sauron being tough fighters were to point out that they were indead tough fighters. Sauron kills Elendil, and Gil-Galad although he is ultimately defeated. Meklor fights a war with the rest of the Valar (before the elves came into being) and holds the upper hand for some time. Even after he is diminished, he defeats one of the stronger (perhapse strongest) elves, and this battle is said to be hopeless for the elf. The point is that they are both tough fighters, although they certainly are not particualrly brave, and will not risk themselves unless it is necessary. In fact, I'm having a tough time thinking of any bad guys who were better fighters. All of the main villans were killed by individual men or elves except for the werewolf (forget the name) killed by Huan.
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Old 08-06-2002, 08:18 AM   #20
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obloquy, while it is certainly possibe to interprit the quote ('I am Gandalf, Gandalf the white, but black is mightier still') about black being stronger than white as based of forces, and not individually, I disagree. Gandalf is clearly talking about himself with the white portion of statement. (I am Gandalf... the key word is I) I would think that since he is comparing himself to something, then it would be something that is similar, not one person vs. an entire nation.
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Old 08-06-2002, 08:27 AM   #21
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Quote:
"Sauron kills Elendil, and Gil-Galad although he is ultimately defeated."
Did you even look at that link I posted?Sauron was at the height of his power during this battle. He had the ring in his possession when he fought with Elendil and Gil-Galad. It has been said already in this forum that when Sauron was at the height of his power, with the ring in his possession, he was more powerful than Morgoth. Now perhaps you should take a look at the "Uh wots a Maiar???/" thread to see what exactly a Maiar is.

You seem to be measuring Morgoth and Sauron with the wrong system. Of course they were strong fighters when compared to elves and men--they were both Ainur after all. But the point that you are refusing to acknowledge is that they were incredibly weak compared to members of their own race. A Maiar at the peak of his power is overthrown by two mortals. Morgoth, a Valar, is wounded by a single elf in a duel.

Perhaps this will help drive my point into your skull. Sauron's case would equate to Gandalf (as Gandalf the White) being overthrown by the two mightiest orcs in Mordor. As for Morgoth, imagine what we would think if Manwë was challenged by the strongest orc of the first Age, and was seriously wounded. Would the fight still be hopeless? Of course it would! It's a Valar fighting a member of a mortal race. As stated by Tolkien in one of the Letters, the Valar were the "gods" of Ea. For a mortal (elves included because they can be slain) to wound a god, that god must not be a very powerful divine being.

[ August 06, 2002: Message edited by: Feanaro ]
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Old 08-06-2002, 10:16 AM   #22
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Yes Feanaro, I read your post. It is simply wrong. You seem to underestimate elves somewhat. Maybe you should read some of the Silmarilion. In it, both Ecthelion and Glorfindel kill balrogs, althhough it costs them their lives. Same for Gandalf the Grey. So while they may not be equal to him, they are close. I think it is safe to assume that Fingolfin is roughly on the same level as they (and thus Gandalf the Grey) are. The whole point is that the wizards are supposed to be roughly equal to (powerful) men and elves. That way the can relate as equals.
Sauron was more powerful than Morgoth at the end of the first age after he had spent most of his spirit. He was not more powerful the Morgoth at the height of his power. Again, in the first war Morgoth is beating the entire Valar until Tulkas enters the fight.
Saruon fights against 5 people, not 2. Gil-Galad, Elrond, Cirdan, Elendil and Isildur. Again, some reading might help improve your knowledge.
A similar comparison would be Gandalf against several of the Nazgul, or perhaps a couple of Balrogs. Equating 2 orcs to the most powerful elves and humans of the time is a little off.
The point is that there is no 'bad guy' tougher than Morgoth at the height of his power. So if they are bad fighters, then who are the good ones?
Next there is a direct quote, (see my above post) where gandalf says that the dark lord is stronger in fact the strongest (or most perilous/dangerous you may interprit that differently), and he does not have the ring at that time. In the same chapter, gandalf says how he stood on a high place and fought with the Sauron, after which he was exausted, but he had managed to distract the eye for a short time. Sounds like Sauron is stronger to me. So, unless Gandalf does not know much about even his own strength, it would appear that Sauron was the stronger of the two.
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Old 08-06-2002, 10:29 AM   #23
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how was sauron more powerful than morgoth?

it is stated somewhere that sauron could never be as powerful because he wasnt his own master, he served morgoth in his begining.
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Old 08-06-2002, 10:40 AM   #24
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Morgoth Bauglir, Tolkien said somewhere that Sauron was stronger than Morgoth as he was at the end of the first age. Morgoth's individual strength declines throught out the 'first' (and previous) ages. The reason is that he spends his spirit in the corrupting of his servants. For instance, to create dragons, he would have to permanently infuse them with some of his strength. Thus, by the time he steals the Silmarils, he is not nearly as powerful as he initially was. This is why Sauron is stronger. He did not have to expend any of his spirit.
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Old 08-06-2002, 02:43 PM   #25
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Actually I have read all of The Silmarillion, over a dozen times--which is how I'm able to continue to prove parts of your notions wrong.
Quote:
"In it, both Ecthelion and Glorfindel kill balrogs, althhough it costs them their lives."
Firstly, Balrogs are not your typical Maiar, so we should leave them out of this discussion entirely. I'm not going to go into this, as it has been gone into before, so I will merely post the link for your reading pleasure: Balrogs DO have wings!

Look at obloquy's post on the second page near the bottom.
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"Again, in the first war Morgoth is beating the entire Valar until Tulkas enters the fight."
Of course he did! Melkor started out as the most powerful Ainur, or did you forget that? He possessed a share in the workings and gifts of all of his bretheren. He does lose some of his potency during the creation of his forces, which is why he does grow weaker over time, good job on that part. However, he started out as the mightiest, which means he has much more power to be able to lose before he eventually equalled the other Valar. Hopefully my idea has been expressed fully enough, although I have a great fear that I will have to elaborate on this further.

Quote:
"Saruon fights against 5 people, not 2. Gil-Galad, Elrond, Cirdan, Elendil and Isildur."
Really? I bet you found that in The Silmarillion?
Quote:
"But at last the siege was so strait that Sauron himself came forth; and he wrestled with Gil-galad and Elendil, and they both were slain, and the sword of Elendil broke under him as he fell."
Hmmm. I wonder which book I got that quote from. Some reading might help to improve my knowledge indeed!
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"The point is that there is no 'bad guy' tougher than Morgoth at the height of his power."
Of course, but no one is trying to prove you wrong (on that point at least). Melkor at the height of his power is more mighty than all the Ainur. Tolkien said that himself, and it would be folly to try and argue with the author. Notice that I never mentioned that Sauron at his height was more powerful that Melkor at his height. Given Melkor's status, I would think that it's a given.
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Old 08-06-2002, 03:21 PM   #26
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Maybe its time for a 13th reading. For pure fighting ability, Tulkas is the strongest Valar. Meklor may have been greater overall, but not in a one on one fight. Unfortunately, Tulkas could not do much else.
Second, I don't see why we can't include Balrogs. So they are not regular Maiar? So what. This just in: Neither was Gandalf. In fact, he was in an incarnate form which, according to the thread you refered me to, so were the balrogs. Anyway, its irrelavent. The point was to show that several elves fought balrogs with the same result that Gandalf had when he did. Thus there strength in battle is probably similar. Maybe that is too abstact?
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Of course he did! Melkor started out as the most powerful Ainur, or did you forget that? He possessed a share in the workings and gifts of all of his bretheren. He does lose some of his potency during the creation of his forces, which is why he does grow weaker over time, good job on that part. However, he started out as the mightiest, which means he has much more power to be able to lose before he eventually equalled the other Valar. Hopefully my idea has been expressed fully enough, although I have a great fear that I will have to elaborate on this further.
I'm afraid you will, since you were the one saying he was weak. This quote seems to have you contradicting yourself.

Quote:
Sauron, as well as his master, were not physically strong in any way, shape, or form. They used guile and deceit to entrap their enemies (the rings of power). Sauron, ages before, was defeated by Huan no matter what type of physical form he took. Melkor too had his foot cleaved off by Fingolfin. Both were not physically strong, but mentally cunning and treacherous.
Do you see the difference in these statements?

Quote:
quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Saruon fights against 5 people, not 2. Gil-Galad, Elrond, Cirdan, Elendil and Isildur."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Really? I bet you found that in The Silmarillion?
Actually, in the Fellowship of the Ring. Elrond says it.

To sum it up, if they were not strong, then who, in your opinion, was? Long story short, Gandalf was not as strong individually (physicaly or mentaly) as Sauron during the War of the Ring. Although if you factor in wisdom, then they may have been equal.
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Old 08-06-2002, 05:31 PM   #27
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Fine... one last time. My point originally was, as still is that niether Sauron nor Melkor were particulary strong in one on one confrontations. Melkor started as the strongest, yes, so he did hold off all of the Valar at one point. He then became steadily weaker as his forces increased, to the point where a single elf could injure him. This being said, Sauron did not gain any special strength enhancements from his association with Melkor, mainly because combat was not Melkor's strongpoint to begin with. So you see, I am not contradicting myself, merely conceding a point to make you feel better. Now then, if you wish to continue this debate, although I can't see why you would--considering that you apparantly forgot what the point I was originally trying to make was, you can do so by yourself. Enough of this thread has been wasted in an argument that should never have taken place at all.
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Old 10-21-2003, 02:06 PM   #28
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This thread had so much potential. It is a shame that it was ruined by the bickering of two individuals, neither of whom really advanced the discussion at all.

The definition of power seems to be the most skewed aspect of this thread. If we are talking about individual physical power alone, then this thread is useless. Gandalf could not 'kill' Sauron or Saruman in hand-to-hand combat (at least until Saruman's fall from his mission), nor could Sauron be killed unless the Ring was destroyed, nor could Sauron 'kill' Gandalf. Sauron was only subject to death because he put much of his spirit into a physical, destructible object, a ring. Saruman was only subject to death because he disobeyed the rules of the Istari and fell from his status. Had Sauron, Gandalf, and Saruman dueled under normal circumstances, their physical 'power' would be of no consequence, since Ainur are not bound to a physical existence.

If we define power as the ability to advance one's own goals, and keep in mind the boundaries and restraints that Gandalf, Sauron and Saruman experienced in Middle Earth at the time of the War of the Ring, then Sauron was obviously the most powerful. Because he was able to assert his will forcefully over his minions, and because he was bound by no moral or ethical guidelines, his ability to advance his own goals was greater then Saruman's or Gandalf's. Gandalf and Saruman were initially bound to the guidelines of being able to use no force over those they guided and by being unable to reveal their true power. I think it is safe to assume that the guideline for the Istari being unable to reveal true power was stringently imposed despite any attempts by the Istari to break it, since Saruman never uncloaked himself, nor did he ever assert the type of power typical of even the weakest Ainu (other than his abilities of persuasion). Because of this, even had they wanted to to, the Istari probably would not have been able to advance their purposes as powerfully as did Sauron.

Sauron also was bound by the Ring. At the time of the Last Alliance, I doubt if Saruman and Gandalf would have been able to defeat him, as he would have been at full strength and at the peak of his power. As I said earlier, he was only able to be 'killed' because he placed a good portion of his being into an object which could be physically destroyed. This hindered him greatly in the War of the Ring.

The point I am trying to make is this: under normal circumstances (i.e. as uncloaked Maiar in Valinor), Gandalf, Saruman and Sauron would not have been able to 'destroy' each other, so trying to quantify their 'power' would be a fruitless engagement. Under the only circumstances in which they ever met (in Middle Earth in the Third Age, specifically circa the War of the Ring), Sauron had more power at his fingertips, and was inherently more powerful than the Istari since he was unrestrained by rules or regulations in his efforts. I could not foresee any end to his rule without greater intervention from Valinor had he still wielded the Ring at the time of the Istari. Gandalf and Saruman may have had 'potent spirits', but they could not kill Sauron without his Ring being destroyed, and, although they could not be killed either, they could not defeat his armies unless they revealed their true powers and took dominion over the free peoples of Middle Earth in battle, which they were inherently restrained from doing. As for whether Saruman or Gandalf was more powerful, I would say that when they first arrived, Saruman was more powerful, since Gandalf was subservient to him, but after Gandalf became the White and cast Saruman from the order, Gandalf became a more powerful being, since he became the chief of the Istari and since Saruman was in an obviously fallen state (after all, he was killed by a mortal). Saruman was still more powerful in advancing his goals for a while though, since he disobeyed the Valar by dominating the wills of other (something which Gandalf never did). Gandalf became truly more powerful in every sense after Saruman's armies were defeated and he was left with no allies and no means of forcing subservience on any beings of Middle Earth.
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Old 10-21-2003, 06:54 PM   #29
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Um, I don't see any argument here. Gandalf clearly was more powerful than Sauron since, through a well-developed strategy and the successful deployment of the forces at his disposal (sorry, subject to his guidance), he was able to bring about the defeat Sauron.

The proof of the power is in the beating.
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Old 10-21-2003, 09:19 PM   #30
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Also, theres the fact that Sauron was a weakened spirit by the end of the 3rd age. Since a great deal of his personal power was set on the One Ring, and another share was set on infusing the orcs, trolls and all fell beasts with a will to kill goodness, and adding to that concept the strain it must have been for Sauron to dominate Curunir (even though Curunir was weaker, he was still a maia, and that would have proved an extra share of power dedicated to keep Saruman ensnared).

So, by adding all those concepts and substracting them of the total of Gorthaur's power, maybe... MAYBE... Olorin was spiritually stronger than Sauron...

Not the maia wrapped up and with the power handicap in Gandalf... but in spirit... Since his will was not placed forth to dominate others, and if doing so, it was not to dominate, but to inspire and help the hearts of men and elves (aided greatly by Narya the Great).
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Old 10-22-2003, 02:14 PM   #31
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Gandalf clearly was more powerful than Sauron since, through a well-developed strategy and the successful deployment of the forces at his disposal
Very true, but there is also such a thing as luck, and it is not a form of power. Gandalf's strategy required a good deal of it. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 10-22-2003, 04:25 PM   #32
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... there is also such a thing as luck, and it is not a form of power. Gandalf's strategy required a good deal of it.
... or some might call it divine intervention. Gandalf's strategy involved trusting in Eru, and Eru came through for him. He who truly has God on his side is powerful indeed.
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Old 10-22-2003, 09:03 PM   #33
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I don't think power or strength should be measured in how many battles one has won or how many enemies one has slain. Things like clever strategies and skillful diplomacy should also be considered, and in that arena, Gandalf took the prize. The victory of the Free Peoples in the War of the Ring was due to Gandalf's clever strategies, skillful use of diplomacy, and reliance on instinct. Another thing that made him superior to Sauron was that he never underestimated his enemy, big or small. Sauron's main weakness was that he underestimated his enemies, and thus, let Frodo and Sam slip into Mordor undetected. Gandalf was prepared for whatever blows (obvious or subtle) that Sauron was going to give him, and thus, helped the Free Peoples win the War.
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Old 10-22-2003, 09:14 PM   #34
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Although at Sauron's height we was mightier (by far) that Gandalf, Gandalf is wiser and hence I would say his wisdom overshadow's Sauron's might.

Just look at the War of the Ring.
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Old 10-23-2003, 04:46 PM   #35
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some might call it divine intervention (The Saucepan Man)
If that were the case, it would not necessarily reflect on Gandalf's power. It would simply mean that, because of his affiliations, he had access to a greater medium of others' power. That would be like saying that, if Morgoth came back and helped Sauron conquer Middle Earth, it would mean that Sauron individually was more powerful than Gandalf.

I do, however, see what you are trying to say Saucepan Man. It is power in terms of connections and affiliations (think George W. Bush [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] ), and it is also a very real form of power.
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Old 10-26-2003, 12:05 PM   #36
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I dont think Sauruman used his full power, because he would have been much harder to defeat if he did.
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Old 12-01-2004, 09:02 AM   #37
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some of this debate is apples and oranges

If you consider Saurons influence over orcs compared to Gandalfs influence over men, then Sauron is the master no question.

Gandalf slew a balrog (and died in the struggle) which, although debatable, Sauron had no influence over, or command of. I postulate this based on the idea that if S did have command of the balrog, surely he would have brought him to Mordor to support his strategy concerning Gondor and the south, no?

JRRT IMO, used the istari characters as a literary tool to show the reluctance of the Vala in direct intervention in ME, and it's influence in the physical world. The end of the ancient ways, although Sauron was one of them. Its also a Valorian tip of the hat to the upcoming dominance of Men to not sally forth in their power and take care of the problem of Sauron. If this was not the case, and all Maiar spirits being equal in strenth, Manwe would have simply plopped Curumo on an eagle, dropped him atop Barad Dur, and taken care of S, while Ulmo would have a trout transport the ring to Osgiliath, where Aule could have taken it and.... blah blah blah etc
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Old 12-01-2004, 10:20 AM   #38
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Since this old topic (judging by the date ) has been brought up again...This is what I wrote in a different topic, but I'll copy-paste it here:

I think that it is obvious that Gandalf was no match for Sauron in terms of sheer power. Tolkien himself sort of said this in letter #183(This was written as a note, so I only put in the actual note and the sentence that the note was referring to. And the passage is talking about Sauron):
Quote:
...But he went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit.*

*Of the same kind as Gandalf and Saruman, but of a far higher order
I interpret "far higher order" meaning that Sauron was a far greater Maia than Gandalf or Saruman. The "same kind" obviously refers to the fact that they were all Maiar.

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Old 12-01-2004, 11:41 AM   #39
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Good research, g_c. I honestly have no clue what Tolkien meant by "far higher order." The Istari and Sauron were not of different orders. The letter is dated 1956, according to Google (I don't have access to any books right now), so maybe that has something to do with the inconsistency.

Anyway, like I said, good quote.

Edit: I've thought about this, and briefly discussed it with burrahobbit, but I still can't figure it out. The idea, which burra suggested to me, of "orders" of varied importance, rank, and power among the Maiar is, apart from this little note, unattested in Tolkien's writing. I cannot recall ever reading that the "order" that any Maia belonged to was anything other than Maia: Maia is, to my knowledge, the name of the order that defines an eala's "station." Some were more powerful than others, of course, and I have addressed that issue in my posts above, and I don't believe the veracity of my argument has been harmed. I say this because the note's wording is far too strong ("of a far higher order...") to adopt its assertion without support from other sources--such as the rest of Tolkien's writings, which I have used to develop my own argument.

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Old 12-02-2004, 03:14 PM   #40
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In UT it gives a note written in 1972 " We must assume that they were all Maiar, that is persons of the 'angelic' order, though not necessarily of the same rank....Saruman is said to be chief..Gandalf was evidently the next. Radagast is presented as a person of much less power and wisdom..."


The letter was dated 1956? In that case, it seems to me that it is an inconstancy in use of vocabulary rather than concept. In the note of '72 he uses order to refer to the "Maia" collectively and rank to distinguish between power levels within that order. In the letter he uses kind to refer to the Maiar and order for the divisions... given the 16 year gap.... I think we can let him off... it is clearly the same idea



http://www.sarahsarchangels.com/archangels/9orders.html
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